Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday - Favorite Historical Settings



Thank you to the folks at The Broke and the Bookish for hosting this fun Top Ten Tuesday meme each week! Many other bloggers’ picks on today’s theme can be seen here.

This topic has been fun to think about because I read so much historical fiction. There are a few eras that I’ve always enjoyed, such as Regency and the American Revolution - but in some cases, maybe it’s the fiction that has drawn me to that particular era. Each of these books is a favorite. So here’s my . . .


Favorite Historical Settings



Old Testament



New Testament times



Medieval England



Regency England



American Revolution



1800’s Appalachia



Civil War



World War II



Vietnam
Although this has a contemporary setting, a Vietnam veteran suffering from what we now know as PTSD plays a major part.

Review + Prism Tour GIVEAWAY: The Express Rider's Lady




The Express Rider’s Lady
By Stacy Henrie
Love Inspired Historical, 2016


Summary

Delsie Radford is going to make it to California, no matter the danger or difficulty. Her father may have kept her and her sister apart, but Delsie refuses to miss her sister's wedding—even with only eighteen days to get there. And she's found the perfect escort in Pony Express rider Myles Patton.

Myles can't believe it when a pretty socialite hires him to take her cross-country through rough terrain and dangerous territory. Surely she'll quit before they reach their destination—he's known girls like her before. But the longer they ride together, the more Myles notices Delsie's toughness and kindness beneath her polished exterior. And though they may be worlds apart…they might just be perfect for each other.



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Stacy Henrie has always had a love for history, fiction, and chocolate. She earned her B.A. in public relations before turning her attentions to raising a family and writing inspirational historical romances. Wife of an entrepreneur husband and a mother to three, Stacy loves to live out history through her fictional characters. In addition to author, she is also a reader, a road trip enthusiast, and a novice interior decorator.

Find Stacy online at . . .


Website - Goodreads - Facebook - Twitter - Pinterest



My thoughts

With its epic scope and beautiful writing, The Express Rider's Lady ranks among the best of Love Inspired books that I've ever read. I’m glad to have discovered the writing of Stacy Henrie.

Spanning a year’s time, The Express Rider’s Lady traverses the Pony Express route between Missouri and California in 1860, and evokes a strong sense of place as we glimpse the Western prairie and mountains through Delsie’s eyes. I gained a deep appreciation and respect for these Pony Express riders, who journeyed approximately 125 miles per day, facing hardship and danger.



Sparrow Hawk
Myles and Delsie are well developed, appealing lead characters and I was immediately drawn to them. Delsie is impressive in her love for family and desire to preserve unity – and how she endured that long ride on horseback staggers the imagination! Myles is such an appealing hero – a man of integrity, kindness and compassion. For a man who had come to question God’s love, it was touching that he gave the animals in his life biblical names – Elijah, his pet sparrow hawk, and Moses, his horse. And I loved the chemistry between Myles and Delsie, with the gradual building of a relationship that began as friendship.

Elements of faith are skillfully woven throughout – such as the way Delsie honored her father, and the effect of her faith on Myles. Stacy has beautifully shown through these characters that, even when we pull away from God, He is still quietly at work in our lives.


I enjoyed The Express Rider’s Lady very much and look forward to more from Stacy Henrie.


Recommended.


Thank you to Prism Book Tours for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


And be sure to enter the tour giveaway below. Prizes include . . .


$50 Amazon eGift Card (open internationally)

Print copy of The Express Rider's Lady (US only)
ebook of The Express Rider's Lady (open internationally)


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule

February 1st: Launch
February 2nd: Heidi Reads... & The Power of Words
February 3rd: Katie's Clean Book Collection & Min Reads and Reviews
February 4th: Babs Book Bistro & Wishful Endings
February 5th: Savings in Seconds & Literary Time Out
February 7th: Wishful Endings & Zerina Blossom's Books
February 8th: Mom with a Reading Problem & Backing Books
February 9th: Seasons of Humility
February 10th: Singing Librarian BooksChristy's Cozy Corners, & Mel's Shelves
February 11th: Getting Your Read On & Tell Tale Book Reviews
February 12th: Dixie n DottieReading Is My SuperPower, & Rockin' Book Reviews
February 14th: Grand Finale

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Review: Thin Ice


Thin Ice
By Irene Hannon
Men of Valor, #2
Revell, 2016


Summary

If Ginny Reed is still alive--who is the woman buried in her grave?

After losing her parents and her sister, Christy Reed has been mired in grief. Now, life is finally starting to feel normal again--until an envelope addressed in her sister's handwriting arrives in the mail. And the note inside claims she is still alive.

FBI Special Agent Lance McGregor, a former Delta Force operator, is assigned to reopen the case . . . but he's coming up with more questions than answers. Is Christy a pawn in a twisted cat-and-mouse game--or the target of a sinister plot? As Lance digs deeper, one thing becomes clear: someone in the shadows has a deadly agenda.

Bestselling author and three-time RITA Award winner Irene Hannon pulls out all the stops in this high-stakes thriller that races to a bone-chilling finish.


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Irene Hannon is the bestselling author of more than forty-five novels, including That Certain Summer, One Perfect Spring, and the Heroes of Quantico, Guardians of Justice, and Private Justice series. Her books have been honored with three coveted RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America, a Carol Award, three HOLT Medallions, a Daphne du Maurier Award, two Reviewers' Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews magazine, a Retailers' Choice Award, a Booksellers' Best Award, and a National Readers' Choice Award. In addition, she is a two-time Christy Award finalist, and Booklist included one of her novels in its "Top 10 Inspirational Fiction" list for 2011. She lives in Missouri. Learn more at irenehannon.com.


My thoughts


Edge-of-your-seat suspense. Engaging, well-rounded characters.
Tension. Romance. Compelling heroes.
Humor. Inspiration.

As with all of Irene Hannon’s suspense novels that I’ve read, each of these elements is present. I’m not really a suspense fan, but Irene’s stories have rich character depth and I enjoy her writing so much that these adventures are just about impossible to resist. (However, I will say that Irene’s contemporary romances are my favorite and I highly recommend them.)

There’s so much to like about Thin Ice! Like Irene’s other heroes, Lance is such a good guy – one who brings strength, intelligence, determination and courage, along with caring and compassion - yet he wrestles with his own personal demons. I love to watch figure skating, so the fact that Christy is a figure skater drew me to her. From the raw terror and loss that Christy experienced in the prologue, I was emotionally engaged.

The story is told from three perspectives – that of Christy, Lance, and the villain – and I enjoyed getting into the villain’s mindset, thought process and rationale. And that brings me to my least favorite part, the twisted psychopath. Really, really creepy and twisted. It’s interesting how, when money isn’t the object, it’s often all about intimidation and control through fear. However, one element of his behavior, while important to the complexity of his nature, was almost too much for me. This behavior has caused me in the past to close a book and never read that particular author again. Not the case this time, though.

I appreciate how Irene always weaves important faith elements into her stories. The enduring of traumatic experiences usually has one of two effects – that of drawing us closer to God or pushing us away – and that’s exactly what happened to Christy and Lance. Christy struggled like any of us would, but it was her faith that comforted and sustained her – while Lance pushed away from the faith of his childhood. I enjoyed not only the very real sparks that flew between them, but their faith journeys as well.

To say that Thin Ice was hard to put down is an understatement. Recommended to all who enjoy romantic suspense.

Thank you to Revell for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Review + Kindle Fire GIVEAWAY: Grace's Forgiveness


Grace’s Forgiveness
By Molly Jebber
Keepsake Pocket Quilt, #2
Zebra, 2016


Summary

A handsome newcomer with secrets shows a yearning Amish woman a chance at happiness—but their love will need all their courage to keep . . .

Grace Blauch is skilled at midwifery—and crafting quilts that help others pass on messages of enduring family love. But a disfiguring birthmark keeps the young Amish woman from a husband and home of her own—until Mark King arrives from another community. His helpfulness and independent nature earn Grace’s respect. And he finds her outspoken ways and determination to do right irresistibly appealing. Soon Grace is planning a wedding quilt of her very own . . . until her father discovers that Mark’s shunned brother is hiding somewhere in town . . .


Grace can well understand why Mark took such a risk once she hears his wrenching reasons. But she fears even prayer will not convince her father to restore his blessing on their union. She wills herself to face the end of her dreams, but sudden danger and an impossible act of generosity will show her that abiding hope can inspire the most precious of miracles . . .



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Molly Jebber is an educational, motivational, and Women’s Christian Connection speaker. She was raised in a small town in the Midwest, and insists if you had blinked twice, you would’ve missed it. She loves God, her family and friends, sunshine, swimming and traveling to the Amish communities.

Creating historical Amish characters and throwing them into difficult situations and joyous times has been challenging and fun for her. The greatest reward she’s experienced in becoming an author is meeting wonderful people from all over the world who’ve been encouraging and supportive. Connect with Molly online at mollyjebber.com.



My thoughts

Grace’s Forgiveness is a sweet, pleasant read, one that fans of Amish fiction will enjoy. Yet in its simplicity, Grace’s Forgiveness deals with shunning, one of the most difficult, hard-to-understand practices of Amish life. Although Grace was introduced in the previous book, Change of Heart, this story stands alone.

The characters seem so true to life that they feel like friends, and I’ve been looking forward to Grace’s story. With elements like midwifery, furniture making, and barn raising, Molly brings the Amish lifestyle to life. But one thing I especially like about this series is the way Molly incorporates some serious issues, like shunning and marrying outside the Amish faith.



Jacob's Ladder quilt
For a people who are supposedly so loving and accepting, their attitude toward Grace because of a birthmark on her face just seemed cruel – and I loved that Mark looked past that disfigurement when he first met her. What a good lesson for all of us! I'm unashamedly a fan of Amish fiction and appreciate the life values we can learn from them. However, the practice of shunning someone who leaves the Amish faith after being baptized – thinking of them as literally dead – that’s something I’ll never be able to understand. Both Grace and Mark had friends or a family member in this situation, and Molly did a good job bringing out the emotion and personal struggles.

I also loved the pocket quilt theme, for in a time where so much communication is done through social media, the idea of a personal note tucked in the pocket for the recipient to find is very appealing. The writing sometimes seems a little stiff or formal, but that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of this sweet story. I suspect that we will see more from two secondary characters, and I look forward to that.


Grace’s Forgiveness is a good book to sit back and relax with. Recommended to all who enjoy Amish fiction.


Thank you to Kensington Publishing and Celebrate Lit for providing an electronic copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Purchase Grace’s Forgiveness at AmazonB&N | BAM | IndieBound


And be sure to enter Molly’s Kindle Fire giveaway below!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Review + GIVEAWAY: Beyond the Silence


Beyond the Silence
By Tracie Peterson, Kimberley Woodhouse
Bethany House, 2016


Summary

The shadows over this olive grove hide more than just the truth.

Lillian Porter has always wanted to fulfill her mother's dream of going west, so when she hears about a nanny position in Angels Camp, California, she defies her grandfather and takes a chance on a new future. But she quickly wonders if she made the right choice. Murky rumors swirl around Woodward Colton, her new employer, but the gossip doesn't match the man Lillian comes to know.

Still, something dark did happen in the family's past. Lillian's seven-year-old charge hasn't spoken in over a year. Gently, Lillian tries to coax him out of his shell, hoping he'll one day feel safe enough to share what scared him. But the Colton olive farm is no longer a safe place. Lillian encounters suspicious characters on their land and mysterious damage done to the farm. When the housekeeper is brutally attacked, the town once again suspects the worst. Will discovering the truth help Lillian clear the name of the man she has come to love---or will it endanger her even more?
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Tracie Peterson is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than 100 novels. Tracie also teaches writing workshops at a variety of conferences on subjects such as inspirational romance and historical research. She and her family live in Montana. Connect with Tracie: website, Facebook

Kimberley Woodhouse is a multipublished author of fiction and nonfiction. A popular speaker/teacher, she's shared her theme of Joy Through Trials with over 150,000 people at more than a thousand venues across the country. She lives, writes, and homeschools with her husband of twenty-plus years and their two awesome teens live in Colorado. Connect with Kimberley: website, Twitter, Facebook


My thoughts

I am impressed with this collaboration between Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse. I’ve read several novels by Tracie and enjoy her style. Kimberly is known for her excellent suspense, and while I don’t read a lot of this genre, I wanted to try this book because of the authors. Rich in characterization, setting, suspense and plot, the combined skill set that Tracie and Kimberly bring to the table makes this a very entertaining and compelling read.


California olive grove
Woody and Lillian drew me to them immediately. The community of Angels Camp, California was not kind to Woody, and as a result of people’s blindness to his innocence, Woody was worn down, vulnerable, and just plain tired. And Lillian . . . Well, she was exactly what he and his son, Jimmy, needed. Lillian had a feistiness about her that I loved, but more importantly, she had the ability to look beyond appearances and she refused to listen to gossip.

Woody and Lillian were empathetic characters; they touched my heart in a personal way. And the same can be said for a few secondary characters as well – such as the housekeeper, Mrs. Goodman, and 7-year-old Jimmy, who is at the heart of this story. Another touching part was the welcoming acceptance and befriending of the sweet, gentle Harry, childlike in a grown-up body. I couldn’t get Harry off my mind, and like Lillian, wondered “How many people missed out on knowing kind souls because someone else labeled them as simpleminded?”

Beyond the Silence has a strong spiritual theme, which I greatly appreciated in a time when many Christian fiction stories fall short in this area. There’s a contrast in words, between Jimmy’s self-imposed silence after witnessing something no child should ever see, and that of the townspeople’s quick judgement, brash condemnation and gossip. The story’s much-needed message about the power of our words – for good or evil, to bless or hurt – gives much to think about.

I thought that Mark, one of my fellow bloggers whose reviews always command my respect, summed it up perfectly and I wanted to share his comment that I heartily agree with:  “Great job, ladies, on a book that personifies what Christian fiction should be, and what Christian suspense should be.” (Click on this link to see Mark’s review at Thoughts of a Sojourner)

Recommended.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Litfuse landing page:


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GIVEAWAY

WINNER:

Congratulations to Marilyn on winning a copy of Beyond the Silence. However, the e-mail you provided did not work, so please contact me by 2/8 or I will need to draw another winner.

Are you a suspense fan? Do you like books that are co-written? Fan of Tracie and/or Kimberly’s books? To enter the drawing for Beyond the Silence, just leave a comment, then click on this Facebook link and share about the giveaway ("likes" to my FB page are also very much appreciated).

BE SURE to leave your name and your email address in a safe format - [at] and [dot] - for the drawing. E-mail required for entry. Contest ends at midnight PST on Friday, February 5. Winner will be chosen by Random.org and contacted by e-mail.

Eligibility: US residents



Monday, January 25, 2016

Review: Undaunted Hope


Undaunted Hope
By Jody Hedlund
Beacons of Hope, #3
Bethany House, 2016


Summary

1871
Eagle Harbor, Michigan

In a town mired in darkness, she may shine the light they need.

Running from the mistakes of her past, Tessa Taylor heads to the uppermost reaches of Michigan, planning to serve as the new teacher to the children of miners. She quickly learns the town had requested a male teacher, but Percival Updegraff, superintendent and chief mine clerk, says she can stay through winter since it's too late to replace her. Tessa can't help but thank him and say she is in his debt.

Determined to make herself irreplaceable once spring thaw arrives, Tessa throws herself into her work, and soon two students have decided Miss Taylor is the right match for their grieving father. At the same time, charming assistant lightkeeper Alex Bjorklund makes his interest known, surprising Tessa, who has never had men fight for her hand before. But not all is well as she feels that someone is tracking her every move, and she may not be able to escape the trap that has been laid for her.


Keweenaw Peninsula

My thoughts

I’ve been blessed to have read enough of Jody Hedlund’s books to know that she is consistent in all that she delivers – captivating storytelling combined with rich characterization, romantic tension, vivid sense of place, and a wealth of historical details drawing from actual eras and people. Rather than saying that this or that book is my favorite, I think that with Jody’s writing, the book I am currently reading becomes my favorite. However, I will say that several themes in Undaunted Hope instantly drew me in – such as Tessa’s school teaching, Alex’s breeding of Norwegian Elkhounds (I loved Bear and Wolfie!), Michael’s children, and the plights of the copper mining community.


Norwegian Elkhounds
Tessa is a wonderful lead character who inspired me throughout. Those who have read the previous novel, Hearts Made Whole, will remember that she hasn’t always been all that likeable. But five years have passed and it’s now 1871, when Tessa comes to Eagle Harbor on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to teach school. She is a tireless worker, determined, strong willed, and opinionated – but most of all, caring. The normal romantic tension is heightened by the fact that two brothers, Alex and Michael, both care for Tessa. Romance fans will love the opening scene where Alex rescues her from the waters of Lake Superior. Also, Jody’s skill at vividly conveying historical elements, like ice fishing and copper mining, added much richness and pulled me right into the characters’ lives.


Ice fishing on Lake Superior
Tessa’s growth and maturity from a questionable past reflects one of the best things about Christian fiction - journeying with a character and finding much that applies to our lives. Grace, redemption, courage, and trusting God for the necessary strength to confront fears are a few themes that touched me.

This series has been special to me because I’ve always been drawn to lighthouses, for they symbolize the human condition of danger, lostness, rescue, hope, and the safety that comes through Jesus. There’s a literal contrast between light and dark in Undaunted Hope – the lighthouse’s shining beam with the darkness deep within the mining shaft – but a spiritual one as well. Tessa’s wanting to be a shining light for change within the community made me think of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”


Beacons of Hope Series
Undaunted Hope arrives at a very satisfying conclusion. Starting with the novella that begins this series, Out of the Storm, a connecting factor has been the passing on of a letter and a hope-filled cross carved from driftwood. I am intrigued with the character who received the cross toward the end of this story and am eager to see how Jody brings the Beacons of Hope series full circle.

Recommended to all who enjoy historical romance.

Watch for an interview with Jody + a GIVEAWAY coming soon!

Click on these titles to see my review of the previous two novels:
Love Unexpected
Hearts Made Whole

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Jody Hedlund is the author of over a dozen novels, including Love Unexpected, Captured by Love, Unending Devotion, The Preacher's Bride, and A Noble Groom, winner of the 2014 Carol Award for historical romance. She received a bachelor's degree from Taylor University and a master's from the University of Wisconsin, both in social work. She lives in Michigan with her husband and five children. She loves hearing from readers on Facebook and on her blog at www.jodyhedlund.com.

Thank you to Jody Hedlund and Bethany House for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Review: Called to Pray


Called to Pray
By Linda Evans Shepherd
Revell, 2015


Summary

When you feel a nudge to pray, what will you do?

Most of us have felt it at one time or another: that unexplained prompting in our hearts to stop and pray for a friend, a loved one, or even a stranger. Sometimes we are even awakened from a deep sleep with an even deeper need to go to God in prayer. Where do those urges come from? Are they truly from God? Or are they merely stray thoughts? And if we respond in prayer, are others' lives affected at all?

In Called to Pray, Linda Evans Shepherd shares dozens of inspiring true stories of people who have heeded God's call to pray and the astonishing results of those impromptu prayers. Through accounts of people being protected from harm and rescued from danger, of needs being met and hearts being encouraged, you'll see that God is involved in an active and dynamic relationship with us--and that we can be part of his plan to bless others.

If you have ever wondered if prayer has any real effect or doubted that God communicates with us personally, this heart-stirring book will amaze, inspire, and equip you to respond to those holy promptings.


My thoughts

I found Called to Pray by Linda Evans Shepherd to be a thoughtfully inspiring and encouraging book, exactly what the subtitle promises: Astounding Stories of Answered Prayer. It is actually a collection of powerful stories — each beginning with Scripture and ending with a summary thought and short prayer. Chapter topics include being called to pray for specific things like protection, rescue, guidance, souls, and trust. With the way this collection is laid out, you can read a few stories at a time or use it as a devotional.

There is so much that I don’t understand about prayer, but I do know that it is very real, that God hears, and that He moves through our spoken words to Him. What I found so moving was the reminder that God frequently prompts us to pray, places certain people or needs on our hearts so that we will cry out to Him on their behalf – and then He answers. This quote from Max Lucado in Chapter 2 says it all:  “You may not understand the mystery of prayer. You don’t need to. But this much is clear: actions in heaven begin when someone prays on earth.”

I think some of the book’s effect was lost on me by reading straight through for review purposes. But as I said earlier, it would be a great resource for meditation – and also a wonderful gift, especially for new believers.

Recommended.

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Linda Evans Shepherd is an award-winning author, a popular speaker, and a radio personality. The president of Right to the Heart Ministries, she is the author of several books, including When You Don't Know What to Pray, Experiencing God's Presence, and The Stress Cure. She and her husband live in Colorado.

Find Linda online at sheppro.com

Thank you to Revell for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.